Out on the street this morning, back to a coffee shop near Logan Circle I went in ’08. Mainly, that time and this, because it’s close to a liquor store which is shaped like a giant barrel. Logan’s a mixed area, students, leftish types, a reasonable racial mix, and last time it was like a carnival, everyone grinning at each other.
There wasn’t the same vibe this time, which is a little sad, but is also one reason why the Right got their forecasts so wrong, grooving off the enthusiasm of old white people shakin’ their booty at Mitt Romney rallies, to one of the six songs he was legally allowed to play. People didn’t enthuse and emote for Obama this time around. All they did was turn out, and that was all they needed to do. More than a million of them also got out the vote, but many more simply made sure they voted, not always the easiest thing to do in the US.
For them, this was the consolidation moment, the day when it was all tamped down, when the white Right was shown they couldn’t rely on it being just a flash in the pan of the hopey-changey thing. Didn’t matter really. I did what I always do on such moments, in hotel rooms somewhere. (Luck held; changing hotels, I got upgraded to a suite on my Expedia points, three blocks from DC metro central. My room sprawls beyond me, rooms and sofas and 300 channels of cable. Thanks Barack!)
That in itself is a type of victory. It is now for the white Right to shriek and scream and to batter their fists against the hull of Air Force One and demand they be heard. Last night, as the dimensions of the victory became clear, they did not disappoint, with Donald Trump tweeting for revolution and Karl Rove on Fox News refusing to accept the result and chiding his own co-presenters for accepting Ohio as a win for Obama. There will be time for schadenfreude later; now is the time to consider the meaning of this moment, politically, socially and historically.
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It would be absurd to say this victory is of greater importance than 2008, because with ’08 there would be ’12. But that is the paradox of the dialectic, of the second knock before waking, of the postman always ringing twice. The ’12 victory gives the ’08 win new meaning in retrospect, a result that was not a fluke, a revolt against George W. Bush. It confirms it as a thing in itself, and the ’12 victory thereby becomes not a last gasp Hail Mary pass but the consolidation of an Order. Whatever happens now, this is the Obama era, a time which situates what came before and after.
How conflicted Bill Clinton must feel now. He’s a man with a heart bypass, and he half worked himself to death for Obama, doing the things Obama couldn’t — that combination of explanation and populism, the way of talking to the common voter, not down to them, that, in the modern era, only he and Paul Keating have mastered. But the Obama era shows up the Clinton double-header as nothing more than a throat clearing. He has been shown up as what he was — an accommodating president, who got the numbers right, and got the system functioning, but whose regime is utterly without major structural change. He is Grover Cleveland to Obama’s Wilson, or Wilson to Obama’s FDR.
“No, there will be the Reagan era, and the Obama era, and those are the poles of this half-century circus, and it is something that the Right are just beginning to realise, and that is pissing them off.”
You can, of course, reel off the major achievements of the split Cleveland presidency. Dubya? Dubya is, god, I dunno, McKinley or something, someone only known because of the manner of his demise. His dad? Bizzarely, HW, 1988-92, exactly matches Benjamin Harrison 1888-92, a man who has almost disappeared to history.
No, there will be the Reagan era, and the Obama era, and those are the poles of this half-century circus, and it is something that the Right are just beginning to realise, and that is pissing them off.
But it is not merely Obama’s second victory — and it was a narrow victory in terms of overall vote, no more than 1% or 2% — that seals the deal. It was the victories in the Senate. Not merely the obvious ones — Claire McAskill against the r-pe guy in Missouri; person X, anyone, against the other r-pe guy in Indiana. There’s also Heidi Heidkamp taking out a narrow victory in North Dakota against, yes, the third r-pe guy. There’s Tim Kaine in Virginia against George Allen, there’s Angus King, a left independent taking a moderate Republican seat in Maine. In Connecticut, Chris Murphy saw off a money challenge from fake-wrestling supremo Linda McMahon. In Florida Ben Nelson saw off Connie Mack. And in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren took the state back from Tea Party upstart Scott Brown, the former male centrefold with the p-rn name. The result leaves the Democrats with 55 reliable votes, up from 53, and puts the Senate out of reach of the GOP for four years at the least, and 8-12 years realistically. It’s a disaster for them.
The third part of this tripod are the special measures of the election. The dope vote won in Colorado and Washington and lost in Oregon, the same-s-x vote in Maryland and Maine. In California, a bunch of measures, including a reduction of the “three-strikes” rule which was invented here, is winning. There’s dozens of others, which I will analyse when I’m less drunk, and not lying on the floor watching Fox News go insane, but the results are in. This was something more than a good night.
This was the revolution, the breach, the moment. This was the point at which the whole country wheeled and turned, when the so-called minorities became the majority, when the country started to take its founding documents at their word — that this is a place where all men (sic) are created equal. They plugged this radical impulse into the political structures, and look what came out. The routing of the old class, packing up their resentment like a cheap concertina, and skulking home.
We missed this story. Everyone missed this story. This was the liberal revolution and where it was won, and we were all too defensive — and some on the Left were and are too purist and consumed in contumely to acknowledge it — to see what was happening. Now we all have to catch up.
Happily, the Right won’t. They’ll never get it, and that shit will play itself out for months and years. They don’t yet realise, the poor fools, that last night they lost not only 2012, but 2016 and maybe 2020. They took back one state. One!
The streets are calm, the mood is not carnivalesque because this is the new normal. Tomorrow there will be time to go over the traces, but for now I am going to boot up by 30 renditions of Don’t Stop Believin’, and repeat history to the defeated but may say alas but cannot help nor pardon, and put on a suit, and stroll out for a taxi, and join my whip-smart intern and others at JFK’s favourite bar, the Monocle, and watch, above the Capitol building, the stars wheel and change.